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New bill and tool join fight against catalytic converter thefts

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Market Trends
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As technicians turn to new tools to protect vehicles from catalytic converter thefts, a newly filed Minnesota bill aims to discourage the costly stolen parts from being resold.

Introduced this month, HF 30 would require scrap dealers to electronically log details of each catalytic converter purchase. Aside from recording identifying characteristics of the part, scrapyard workers must also document seller details and time of sale.

If passed, the proposed legislation will also require scrap yard workers to log: 

  • The amount paid and the number of the check or electronic transfer used to purchase the scrap metal;
  • The license plate number and description of the vehicle used by the person selling the part;
  • A statement signed by the seller attesting that the scrap metal is not stolen;
  • The vehicle identification number of the car it was removed from or other identifying markings that link the part to the car

Those who don’t comply with the rules could face misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the amount of undocumented catalytic converters in their possession. Lawmakers hope to have the bill passed and in effect by Aug. 1.

Catalytic converter replacement generally costs between $1,000-$3,000, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), and simple tools can be used to steal them. Recyclers usually pay between $50-$250 for one, but the precious metals that come from hybrid vehicles can bring up to $1,500.

Criminals have become more resourceful in their quest to nab the goods, with some using Air Tags to track catalytic converters down.

Bill sponsor Rep. Ruth Richardson (DFL-Mendota Heights) said catalytic converter thefts are “skyrocketing” and that something must be done to stop it.

“These thefts are hurting Minnesotan’s pocketbooks as the replacement costs can exceed $2,000 or result in a total loss to the vehicle,” she said. 

According to State Farm Insurance, catalytic converter thefts have spiked 400 percent since 2019, with Minnesota being among the hardest hit states. 

Brian Sturgeon, police chief in West St. Paul, Minnesota, said such thefts can cause “huge burdens and undue stress” for victims whose cars become incapacitated. He said he supports the bill because it holds dishonest scrap yard employees accountable for enabling theft. 

“We cannot arrest our way out of this problem,” he said.

Minnesota is among several states seeking to crack down on catalytic converter thefts. Oregon passed a bill that went into effect last January to require converter sale or disposal transaction documents.

Meantime, some shop owners are finding their own ways to protect cars from being targeted.

Included as one of the “Kool Tools” presnted by the SCRS Education Committee during the association’s open board meeting last week, Committee Chair Dominic Martino of Gold Coast Auto Body in Chicago, Ill., shared information about a new anti-theft tool on the market.

The CatStrap, which was designed with three sliding cables a blade can’t grip. Although it’s possible to saw through the steel barrier, it would be time consuming and could wear a thief’s blade down.

Jay Milligan, president of Converter Reclaim, said the CatStrap is an alternative to the catalytic converter shield, which is only available for certain makes and models and can be more easily removed.

“The CatStrap is affordable too,” he said. “Since this is made of fiberglass, it will survive the test of time.”


Featured image: A technician removes a catalytic converter. Catalytic converter thefts are really on the rise. (NongAsimo/iStockphoto)

A CatStrap is pictured attached to a catalytic converter (Courtesy of Jay Milligan)

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